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HOWARD — A 21-yard run late in the fourth quarter by Northmor’s Conor Becker pushed the Golden Knights ahead of the East Knox Bulldogs in a defensive back-and-forth all night Friday, 15-14.
“I don’t think anybody predicted the defensive battle we saw here tonight,” Northmor coach Scott Armrose said. “What we saw were just two really good football teams that wanted to win so bad. What a physical, hard-fought game and it just came down to one play.”
“We’ve got to make sure that we can capitalize when given the opportunity and we didn’t do that. Hats off to Northmor for making plays.”
Cody Reese, East Knox Football Coach
Down 14-8 and reeling from a big play for the Bulldogs, the Knights started a drive on their own 44. Nine plays later, Becker rumbled his way down the left sideline on a punishing run to knot the game at 14.
According to Armrose, Northmor is close to 50 percent on their point-after attempts this season, so he had to call a timeout to decide whether to go for one or two. Kicker Nate Ruhl hit all his field goals in pregame, so his number was called and he knocked it through to put Northmor ahead by one.
The Bulldogs had a solid runback on the ensuing kickoff, setting them up on their own 44. An 18-yard connection from quarterback Kadden Lester to receiver Gage Steinmetz got the chains moving on the first play of the drive. Two plays later, an intentional grounding call set East Knox back and cost them a down, setting the ball on the 39 for fourth down. An incompletion gave Northmor the ball back, and they milked the clock for the win.
The Knights were the first to get on the board. After a three-and-out by the Bulldogs to open the game, Northmor marched 46 yards on 10 plays, ending in a 10-yard run from Becker for the score. Becker toted the rock one more time on the drive to tack on another two points, giving the visitors the 8-0 lead with less than five minutes off the clock.
Chris Bood came up with an interception on defense for the Knights to stop any quick answer for the Bulldogs, who were stopped again in the first quarter, this one a turnover on downs deep in enemy territory.
“They had a great defensive game plan coming in,” East Knox coach Cody Reese said. “They had players in position. They obviously gave us fits all night. Throughout the game they made more plays than we did.”
The Bulldogs were able to string a couple of big plays together in the middle of the second quarter, with two passes going to Caleb Gallwitz for a combined 47 yards. Kasson Krownapple closed off the drive with a 2-yard run out of the wildcat. Down by two after the six points, East Knox opted to go for the PAT to trim the lead to one.
“We knew we were going to have to score again to win anyway,” Reese said. “At that point, we didn’t want to chase points so we were going to wait until the second half. We did that and it didn’t end up working out for us, but I really like the decision and have no problem with that.”
An interception by Peyton Lester gave the Bulldogs a chance to score again before heading to the locker rooms. The home team started on its 45 with 2:45 to go in the half. A roughing the passer penalty was a big mover in the drive, before a spiked ball, not from under center, was ruled an intentional grounding, that marched the ball back 5 yards.
After a Northmor timeout and with only a couple ticks left of the clock, Lester heaved a ball toward the endzone. Gallwitz and Logan Randolph wrestled for the ball, with both players having their hands on it and ending up in the end zone. The ruling, as told to Reese, was that it was an interception and the player was down by contact at the 1 and with no time left on the clock, the half was over.
“We always tell our boys, ‘The things you can’t control you can’t worry about,’” Reese said. “We had other opportunities to win this football game. It didn’t come down to just that play and I’m not going to dwell on that.”
Midway through the third quarter, East Knox had another sustaining drive, but a fumble inside the 10 turned the ball over.
“We’ve got to finish,” Reese said. “We were inside the 10 two, maybe three times, and we came away with zero points. We’ve got to make sure that we can capitalize when given the opportunity and we didn’t do that. Hats off to Northmor for making plays.”
On the next drive, which spanned into the fourth frame, the Bulldogs were set up at the Knight 11, but a sack on fourth down ended the scoring opportunity. After several punts, East Knox got the job done on defense, with Weston Melick scooping up a fumble and taking it back to the house 46 yards for six points. East Knox lined up to go for two, but a false start moved the ball back 5 yards and they opted to go for the kick, putting the team ahead 14-8 with 5:09 left, but that was too much time for the Knights, with Becker’s score proving to be the difference.
The Bulldogs were held to just 251 yards of total offense. Krownapple notched 71 yards on 20 carries. Lester was 17 of 34 for 181 yards, with Gallwitz coming down with 108 yards on nine receptions and Steinmetz recording four catches for 49 yards.
“Coach Morgan, our defensive coordinator, put together a great defensive plan this week,” Armrose said. “We played a three-man front, which we haven’t shown a lot this season. We played zone, and nobody plays zone against East Knox. We sat back, made them catch it and came up and hit and that was our game plan.”
Becker accounted for 87 yards on the ground on 29 carries. He also had 29 receiving yards. Hunter Mariotti was 13 of 22 for 125 yards, including 56 yards to Cole Dille (seven catches) and 44 yards to Blake Miller (four catches).
The win puts Northmor at 7-0 on the year with a 4-0 conference record, while the Bulldogs drop to 6-1 and 3-1 against KMAC foes. East Knox hits the road Friday to take on Fredericktown, while Northmor hosts Mount Gilead.